Nicki Minaj hasn’t been in a hurry to follow up 2014’s The Pinkprint. Speaking to Zane Lowe on Beats 1, the Queens-bred rapper revealed she only began putting together a new album last December while taking a break from social media.
Now, in the midst of her longest-ever stretch between albums, she returned with two new songs on April 12 — “Barbie Tingz” and “Chun-Li” — the latter of which references the revenge-seeking cop of the same name from the Street Fighter video games. Minaj enlisted Atlanta producer J. Reid to helm the tracks, and chose the beats from a folder of 15 he created specifically for her. Here, he shares how “Chun-Li” came together.
The Production: Minaj was on the hunt for a boom-bap-style beat that would complement the initial bars she had in mind for “Chun-Li.” Once she chose Reid’s track, “Nicki stormed into the booth and freestyled for 10 minutes straight,” he says. “Then she busted [into] the control room super excited, demanding everyone’s opinion. That’s when I knew we had a hit.”
The Release: Minaj and her team “officially” completed “Chun-Li” just one day before premiering the song alongside “Barbie Tingz” on Beats 1 during a candid interview. Minaj has previously referenced the character on Willow Smith’s 2011 single “Fireball,” on which she declares, “I’m the street fighter, call me Chun-Li.”
The Character: “Chun-Li was the first female playable character in a fighting game and remains one of the most popular characters,” says Angella Austin, senior PR manager for Street Fighter developer Capcom. Reid says he connects Minaj with the character — an Interpol officer and martial artist who debuted in 1991 — because “you can really feel [Nicki’s] energy, as if she were actually getting ready to kick some ass and take names.”
This article originally appeared in the April 21 issue of Billboard.